With great fanfare, Turkey's Justice and Development Party, or AK party, opened its fourth congress in Ankara on Sunday.

"For the AK party voters ... it's certainly been a celebration of a political success story .... For  the entire nation, it's a new threshold of where the politics is going to develop from now on ... Turkey is entering a new phase after a very interesting, exciting journey, if you will, bumpy at times but soft transition nevertheless .... And AKP supporters understandably feel proud of the strength of their party."

- Yavuz Baydar, a Turkish newspaper columnist

In a sports arena in the capital, where the red carpet was re-named "the path of democracy", Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the AK party's leader and Turkish prime minister, addressed tens of thousands of supporters and foreign dignitaries.

The event was celebrating Turkey's success - a decade of electoral success, a strong economic growth and as a rising regional power.

It was Erdogan's last congress as AK party chairman, and he is widely expected to run for president in 2014.

In a two-and-half hour speech, Erdogan said the era of military coups is over and that Turkey is a model for other Muslim countries to emulate.

But Turkey has to deal with several issues.

Just days ago, three top generals were convicted of masterminding a plot to overthrow the government. More than 300 Turkish military officers were involved.

And Turkey has been in a long war with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has stepped up its attacks in recent months as it pushes for a separate Kurdish state.

"What we saw was a monologue by the increasingly authoritarian prime minister ... there was no debate, there was no negotiation ... and there was no contestation within the party. So this was a party conference where there was no sign of intra-party democracy."

- Aykan Erdemir, a Turkish opposition MP

Turkey also faces a potential threat from Syria. And adding to its economic burden, Turkey's refugee camps now hold around 80,000 people from Syria.

As Turkey's ruling AK party prepares for a major shake-up, we ask: What changes are we going to see? Where is Turkey at after a decade of the same leadership? And what are the challenges ahead for the party?

Inside Story, with presenter Laura Kyle, discusses with guests: Aykan Erdemir, a member of parliament from the opposition's Republican People's Party (CHP); Yavuz Baydar, a columnist at the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman; and Ekrem Eddy Guzeldere, a political analyst for the European Stability Initiative.

"Before we came to power in 2002, there were no economic stability, no safety, no democracy in this country. We have been alone in our fight against terrorism, in our process of democratisation. We are determined to solve the Kurdish issue despite provocations and attrition campaigns against the government. The Kurdish question cannot be solved by those who hug terrorists, but those who hug the nation. We took over $23.5bn of debt. As of now we have $1.3bn of debt and we will cut it to zero in April."

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister



  • The fourth congress of Turkey's ruling AK party opened on Sunday
  • The AK party, in power for a decade, will outline policy goals leading up to Turkey's centenary
  • The AK party rules limit legislators to three terms in parliament, which means PM Erdogan will be ineligible to contest in 2015
  • PM Erdogan also favours changing Turkey to a strong presidential system

Source: Al Jazeera